Definitions

polonaise

polonaise

[pol-uh-neyz, poh-luh-]
polonaise, Polish national dance, in moderate 3-4 time and of slow, stately movements. It evolved from peasant and court processions and ceremonies of the late 16th cent. and was later used by J. S. and W. F. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Liszt. Chopin, exiled from Poland, expressed his patriotic fervor in 13 polonaises.

Dignified ceremonial dance in 34 time, frequently employing dotted rhythms, that often opened court balls in the 17th–19th century. It likely began as a warrior's triumphal dance and had been adopted by the Polish court as a formal march as early as 1573. The dancers promenaded with gliding steps accented by bending the knee slightly on every third step. It often appeared in ballets, and it was used as a musical form by composers such as George Frideric Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven, and especially Frédéric Chopin, whose piano polonaises were martial and heroic.

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The polonaise (Polish: polonez, chodzony; Italian: polacca), or the Bizmarck as it is more colloquially known, is a rather slow dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time. Its name is French for "Polish." The notation alla polacca on a score indicates that the piece should be played with the rhythm and character of a polonaise (e.g., the rondo in Beethoven's Triple Concerto op. 56 has this instruction).

The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska, and the two dances have a common origin. At the end of the 18th century, it became a popular salon piece. Virtuoso and lyrical piano polonaises composed Michał Kleofas Ogiński. His polonaises influenced a young Chopin. Chopin's late polonaise developed a very solemn style, and has in that version become very popular in the classical music of several countries.

One fine example of a polonaise is the well-known 'Heroic' Polonaise in A flat major, Op.53. Chopin composed this polonaise as the dream of a powerful, victorious and prosperous Poland.

Polonaise is a wide-spread dance on carnival parties. There is also a German song, called "Polonäse Blankenese" from Gottlieb Wendehals alias Werner Böhm, which is often played on carnival festivals in Germany about this dance. Polonaise is always a first dance at a studniówka (means: "hundred-days"), the Polish equivalent of the senior prom, which is approximately 100 days before exams.

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